CASH ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS. Farmers from Cuartero, Capiz receive their PHP5,000 aid under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Feb. 7, 2022. DA Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter on Wednesday (February 9) said the distribution targets 46,637 rice growers tilling two hectares or less. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Provincial Agriculturist –Capiz FB page)

ILOILO CITY – The distribution of the PHP233.1 million Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program for 46,637 qualified farmers in the province of Capiz is ongoing, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday.

DA Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter, in an interview, said the beneficiaries are rice growers tilling two hectares or less.

The distribution of PHP5,000 for each beneficiary started in the municipality of Cuartero on February 7. 

Recoter said they looked forward to completing the distribution covering the province’s 16 remaining towns on the first week of March.

The ongoing distribution, she added, will not be affected by the election period as they have requested its continuous release to immediately help the rice farmers facing the challenges of rehabilitation in the wake of Typhoon Odette, coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) threat, and the high cost of fertilizers.

“So we are hoping the PHP5,000 will be used for fertilizer, other production input and other domestic expense,” Recoter said.

The recipients of the RFFA are listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) showing that they have less than two hectares of rice land.

The RFFA is being sourced from the PHP7 billion excess of the PHP10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) from import duties or taxes from rice importers during the 2019-2020 period.

“If there is an excess in the taxes that will be collected, the law says that it can be used either for crop insurance, land titling, crop diversification and financial assistance. So in 2019 to 2020 there was an excess of PHP7 billion that was utilized as financial assistance,” Recoter said.

Of the PHP10 billion, 50 percent will go to farm mechanization under the helm of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech), 30 percent for certified seeds to be implemented by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), 10 percent each to training and extension under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and financing through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

During the distribution, the farmers are issued with their RSBSA identification cards that they can still use for the next three years in case some benefits will be given to them.

Meanwhile, the regional director said that they are hoping to resume the distribution in Iloilo province this month or in March for the remaining 48, 658 rice farmers with the LBP.

She said that 68, 658 rice farmers in Iloilo are qualified to avail of the assistance with a total budget of PHP344 million.

“We started last December with almost 20,000 for those whose names were listed in the Development Bank of the Philippines,” she said.

For Negros Occidental they are still waiting for the LBP to start the distribution for 31, 839 remaining farmers as the DBP has already completed the release for 13, 185 farmers.

Already completed is the distribution in Aklan and Guimaras while they are still working on the schedule of distribution in Antique. (PNA)